Assessment of anti-scarring therapies inex vivoorgan cultured rabbit corneas


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Abstract

The effects of a triple combination of siRNAs targeting key scarring genes were assessed using an ex vivo organ culture model of excimer ablated rabbit corneas. The central 6 mm diameter region of fresh rabbit globes was ablated to a depth of 155 microns with an excimer laser. Corneas were excised, cultured at the air–liquid interface in defined culture medium supplemented with transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGFB1), and treated with either 1% prednisolone acetate or with 22.5 μM cationic nanoparticles complexed with a triple combination of siRNAs (NP-siRNA) targeting TGFB1, TGFB Receptor (TGFBR2) and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF). Scar formation was measured using image analysis of digital images and levels of smooth muscle actin (SMA) were assessed in ablated region of corneas using qRT-PCR and immunostaining. Ex vivo cultured corneas developed intense haze-like scar in the wounded areas and levels of mRNAs for pro-fibrotic genes were significantly elevated 3–8 fold in wounded tissue compared to unablated corneas. Treatment with NP-siRNA or steroid significantly reduced quantitative haze levels by 55% and 68%, respectively, and reduced SMA mRNA and immunohistostaining. This ex vivo corneal culture system reproduced key molecular patterns of corneal scarring and haze formation generated in rabbits. Treatment with NP-siRNAs targeting key scarring genes or an anti-inflammatory steroid reduced corneal haze and SMA mRNA and protein.HighlightsExcimer ablated ex vivo organ cultured corneas developed intense scar-like features.Triple combination of siRNAs targeting TGFB1, TGFBR2 and CTGF reduced scarring.This model for corneal scarring can be an important middle ground between cell culture and animal experiments.

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